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Rain in Hwange

Rain in Hwange

 

Hwange Mid-November 2015

 

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Mopane Trees in new leaf
Image Nicki Dell

We arrived to sweltering, sticky heat, and a hot, stifling wind. Clouds built up throughout the day with the magnificent promise of rain in sunsets streaked with glorious colour. But morning revealed clear, blue, cruelly cloudless skies. Huge numbers of elephants arrived in waves to suck up precious water in the pans, many of which contained pools of dark, undrinkable, liquid mud. There was fierce competition round the pipe yielding fresh, cool water from deep underground. Animals stood round listlessly, heads drooping, lacking the energy to move off and forage.

 

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Image Nicki Dell

The water holes in the Main Camp area seemed to be holding up – just – thanks to efforts from Gary, Patrick and the Parks game water staff to keep all pumps possible working flat out and some pans still contained small pools of drinkable water. The variety and number of animals sighted was amazing – elephants by the thousand; graceful herds of impala; plump, belligerant zebra; pink-eared kudu; stately sable, roan and waterbuck; warthogs with litters of mini piglets; inquisitive giraffe; lions of all sexes and sizes; long-limbed cheetah; spotted hyaena; a herd of buffalo 2000 strong at Mandavu – and the list goes on. We were surprised that the water holes with solar units performed relatively well in a season that’s been particularly harsh and dry, and it’s clear that installation of more solar units is the way forward in the coming months ahead. Elephants destroyed the pipes of the windmill at Shapi, a catastrophe for small animals in that region, and one angel from HLR stopped there and poured some water into a bowl for some very thirsty vervet monkeys desperate for a drink. Shumba Pan was uplifting; the 2 solar units there are clearly coping well. But Masuma, which FOH does not manage, was worst of all. The pump was down due to broken pipes, the pan contained nothing but murky, thick sludge and the trough was empty. We watched with heavy hearts as a troop of baboons desperately licked at the damp concrete, and several kudu turned this way and that perplexedly, unable to understand why there was no water. A small herd of elephant screamed their anguish, and we, who are hardened to the toughness of this place, could take no more and drove away.

 

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Image Dave Dell

That evening at Sinamatella we watched the clouds build into a dark mass, stark and beautiful with shafts of sunlight piercing through to the ground. Lightning flashed in the distance, and we woke in the small hours to the sound of thrumming, drumming, pelting rain. Again the following night at Mandavu Dam, we lay in our beds and listened to the fierce gusts of wind  tearing at our tents followed by a torrential, lashing downpour. The heavy rain was widespread from Sinamatella to Detema Dam and Robins, and on down to Masuma and Shumba. There was not an elephant to be seen – they simply took off overnight and vanished.

 

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Tiny, new, red Mopane shoots
Image Nicki Dell

Tiny red shoots burst forth on the Mopane bringing promise of recovery and new life. In the Main Camp area, some elephant herds remain; painfully thin, they are too weak to start on the long journey west and south, and need to build up strength before heading off to pastures green. A devastating and widespread fire from Mbiza and Broken Rifle though to Kennedy 2 had destroyed much needed vegetation, but shoots of green grass have already pushed through the blackened earth, and clumps of tender leaves and shoots are magically unfurling on bare branches.

 

There have been casualties. Sad dried up piles of skin and bones are scattered round many of the pans. Predators, sleekly fat and thriving have feasted on free bounty, and vultures too have done their job of cleaning up the carnage. But the vast majority of animals have hung on and made it through the drought.

 

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A tortoise feasting on new leaves
Image Nicki Dell

Although we are still pumping water into the pans, we are cautiously optimistic that the worst is over for this year. The water in Guvalala is still very low, and Dom and Nyamandhlovu need a good downpour. But there are puddles all over Ngweshla, good water in the pans at Kennedy 1 and 2, Makwa has pools of standing water all around and more rain is forecast in the coming weeks ahead. And before leaving the park, we spied a tiny, perfect, newborn impala fawn – a wonderful symbol of hope and re-birth.

 

To Gary and his men, we salute you. Your passion and commitment are boundless.

 

To all our many wonderful supporters, without you we would surely have a different tale to tell today. Our heartfelt thanks and gratitude go out to you all.

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Image Dave Dell
Please Help the Animals

Please Help the Animals

Gary Cantle is our man on the ground in Hwange, and he is responsible for the hands on work Friends of Hwange Trust does in the park. Gary is absolutely passionate about his work, and has a special place in hisIMG_0209r heart for elephants. He spends long hours driving to remote locations in extreme heat to maintain the engines that pump water, and supply the diesel needed to run them. He incessantly has to deal with one crisis pan after another day in and day out. For him things get tougher and tougher as the dry season progresses and as he is forced to witness scenes of animal distress. Gary will not take a day off until the end of November when the rains set in, and at the end of the dry season each year he is always exhausted.

 

The situation water wise will reach crisis point in the next two months.

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Hwange National Park – Art supporting wildlife conservation

Hwange National Park – Art supporting wildlife conservation

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Thank you to all the people and organizations that have supported Hwange National Park over the years. It is very saddening when we loose some of our animals, for whatever reason, but we have to move forward and focus our efforts on maintaining the animals we still have and supporting the Park as a whole so it is there for not only our children, and their children, but also for future generations of animals. Our wildlife deserves and has the right to live free and safe in the African bush. Hopefully one day soon sanity will prevail and us humans will manage the planet without greed and corruption!

The Trustees of FOH are proud to inform all donors that 100% of donated money is used in the Park for the good of the animals. The Trust does not incur any running expenses outside of the Park and all work done by the Trustees is done so on a voluntary basis.

This year especially, and indeed most years, we are desperate to raise money to keep the Park going and to help make sure that the hundreds of thousands of animals living in the Park have enough water and are as secure as possible.

Our work in the Park is multifaceted and includes water supply, pan & road maintenance, fireguards, repairing erosion, animal rescue and deployment of anti-poaching units. We do all of these things and still find time to help people who have vehicle problems or just want advice on where best to find the elusive cats and dogs (elephant are not that hard to find in the dry season!)

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